Author Archive

Linked In

April 16, 2012

You may have noticed activity is rare on this blog these days!

You can now find us on Linked In here! Why not pop over there and join in the discussions!


Consumer Network needs new volunteers!

March 10, 2011

Consumer Focus Scotland are looking for new volunteers and would like to hear from people who are interested in consumer issues such as education, the environment, health, food, housing, post and public services. Their Consumer Network is a group of home-based volunteers who act as  ‘eyes and ears’ across the country – helping to keep the organisation informed about the issues that concern ordinary people throughout Scotland.

· Have your say on key consumer issues – give Consumer Focus Scotland your views on the government, regulators and service providers

· Speak directly to experts at the discussion groups – an opportunity to put your points and questions directly to people who have the answers and the power to act

· Be part of a network of consumers and share your views, experiences and ideas with them

· Investigate local services and facilities and report on how they are performing in your community

· Keep up to date with consumer issues through the Facebook Page, monthly email roundup of key press stories and quarterly newsletter

Interested? For more information have a look at their website:

The Importance of Teamwork

March 7, 2011

As a communications professional, where do you fit in your organisation?

Do you feel as though you are at the centre of a hub of information that extends through the whole organisation, linking everyone who works there in a mutually supportive network?

Or do you feel consigned to the edges, told to get on with your job by yourself because after all you’re responsible for communications?

I’ve been in both situations and I’ve learnt that for communications to be effective, it needs to involve everyone in the organisation, whatever their role. Communications Managers and Information Officers are employed to manage and execute the process but it is impossible for us to do that without input from the whole organisation. After all, everyone in the organisation is doing something that is worth telling your supporters about!

Some organisations have a culture where people work very separately and are reluctant to accept the idea that everyone needs to be involved in communicating the work of the charity. If you find yourself in this kind of organisation, there are ways that you can help to bring everyone on board:

* Arrange meetings with everyone individually (or in teams) to discuss their work and what they would like to communicate to the general public or your organisation’s other audiences.

* Arrange regular Communications Meetings open to everyone in the organisation, where you and your team discuss your work, your successes, and ask other teams to let you know what they need from you.

* Keep everyone in the organisation up to date with your team’s successes. Email everyone links to articles you get in the online press, pin press cuttings to the noticeboard!

* Invite everyone to contribute to your newsletters and other publications.

* Set up a regular internal Communications briefing, so that everyone knows what you’re working on.

* If you are new to your role, make it clear from the very start, that you want to involve everyone, so that their work can be best represented to the organisation’s audiences.

These are just some ideas. What is your experience – are you in constant communication with every part of your organisation or have you been pushed to the side? If the latter, how are you trying to make communications more central to your organisation? Is it working?

Juliet Wilson has worked in Communications and Fundraising for a number of Scottish charities. She currently works as an adult education tutor.

A Practical Toolkit for Information & Advice Providers

September 14, 2010

This is an interesting resource for anyone who provides information or advice in Scotland:  

Complying with the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers: A Practical Toolkit (Scottish Government 10/09/10)

Behind the Scenes at Organic Fortnight

September 2, 2010

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the work that has gone into Soil Association Scotland’s latest campaign, just before we launch it!  

Organic Fortnight (3-17 September) is the annual campaign and celebration for organic food, lead by the Soil Association. This year Soil Association Scotland decided to do our own campaign!

The theme of Organic Fortnight this year is Choosing Organic Every Day. So we wanted to offer information on how organics can really be an everyday choice. The Organic Trade Board supplied us with some analysis that shows that if you shop around you can buy organic products that are cheaper than the non-organic alternatives.

We’re also celebrating all things organic in Scotland. We wanted to highlight the unusual organics – from an organic childcare service  to an organic farm that is also an art centre to an  organic horticultural training for people with learning difficulties.  We’re also sharing the variety of organic products and experiences that are out there – including  wool, sheepskin, organic baking classes and Scottish wildlife tours with fully organic catering.

We wanted to get wide coverage for the campaign so that we could reach as many people as possible.

We contacted organic producers and retailers, food groups and environment groups to ask them to promote Organic Fortnight in exchange for us promoting their events. This has been very successful, with a number of organisations promoting Organic Fortnight on their website  including Forth Valley Food Links and Portobello Transition Town.

We press released local newspapers and food related magazines and have secured coverage via Forth Action and it looks like we’ll get some articles too.

Online, we’ve added all the organic fortnight related events we know of in Scotland to the Scottish Noticeboard on our website. We are also hijacking our allotment mini-blog to talk about Organic Fortnight.

We contacted a number of bloggers who have agreed to blog about organic issues throughout the fortnight. Some of these bloggers are quite well known in the blogging world and will be able to reach new audiences. We will be sharing links to their blog posts via Twitter and our blog.

We are also promoting Organic Fortnight on Twitter . We’re highlighting organic products, community groups, activities and events across Scotland. There has been a very good response so far with a lot of people retweeting our messages and agreeing via Twitter to blog for us. We even secured a partnership with another campaign via Twitter!

The partnership in question is with Zero Waste Week which runs from 6-12 September. Their theme this year is Cooking for Victory and focusses on waste associated with food and drink. This makes a lot of natural tie ins with Organic Fortnight and we (and some of our participating bloggers) will be writing on topics that span the two campaigns.

We hope at the end of the campaign that more people will be aware that organic can be an everyday choice while also being more aware of some of the unusual organic products out there. In information terms I think the main lesson is that a campaign aimed at the general public needs to identify as many different communication channels as possible and to work with other people.

Comparing Information Resources

July 7, 2010

The Soil Association had a stall at the recent  Royal Highland Show, which if you’ve never been is a huge agricultural show with an increasing section for conservation and animal charities. It’s a good place to set up stall if your organisation has an interest in countryside and food production issues.

I guessed that a lot of people would be stuck at their stalls for much of the time and not able to visit us.  So, I wandered round the show talking to people and handing out information about our work. This lead to some very interesting conversations! I handed information on our Climate Change programme to the renewable energy companies at the show  so they know we share an interest in their work!

I also picked up a lot of information leaflets from other charities, animal breeders and energy companies and am reading them now. Some of them are excellent, some of them less so. Here are just some thoughts, in no particular order,  that you may like to think about as you design information leaflets. They may seem obvious but I have some leaflets in front of me that show that not everyone thinks about all of these things!

  • Presentation makes a big impact – good design helps get attention!
  • If your leaflets are too glossy  it can look as though you have money to waste, it also looks less environmentally friendly.
  • Photos and illustrations are appealing and can add to your message.
  • Use colours with care, black print on a dark blue background is difficult to read and may lose you readers.
  • Think carefully about what you want to say – every word should count!
  • Think about who your audience is and craft your leaflets to suit your audience. For instance avoid jargon, especially in leaflets for the general public.
  • You need to design and write a leaflet differently depending on the pupose – is it to attract new members or to inform people about an issue?
  • It is often useful to give the reader some way of responding to the leaflet for example a tear off slip or a membership form.
  • Make sure you include full contact details for your organisation!

What are your top tips for information leaflets? Are there any of these points you’d like to see expanded in a future blog post?

Information Systems for Conservation

June 7, 2010

Information is vital to help conservation organisations work out the status of animal and plant species that they are trying to conserve. In the UK there are a number of websites that are useful to conservationists and also to those of us who enjoy watching wildlife in our own time.

I am a keen birdwatcher and always enter my bird records onto Birdtrack. BirdTrack is a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club , that looks at migration movements and distributions of birds throughout Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack provides facilities for observers to store and manage their own personal records as well as using these to support species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.

If you’re not sure about your bird identification, the RSPB website has some very useful resources to help you learn more.

If the seashore is more your thing, then you can add records the The Shore Thing. This is an initiative of MarLIN, the Marine Life Information Network, working with schools and volunteer recorders to collect information on the marine life of rocky shores around Britain. All the information collected will be made available online and will help to build a picture of how things are now to measure change in the future.

I-Spot is a brilliant venture from the Open University where anyone interested in nature can share their observations. Beginners can ask more experienced naturalists for help in identifying species and a result better records are available of the nature in this country. 

Scotland has a network of Biological Record Centres that are always happy to receive your records of wildlife sightings. The BRISC website gives details of how biological recording works in Scotland and contact details for local record centres. You may want to contact your local centre to find out which types of records they are most interested in.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government body charged with looking after Scotland’s natural environments. You can now search their wealth of data and information on SNHi.

These are just a few of the available resources in the UK. So whether you work in conservation, watch birds in your spare time or are just interested in how different organisations use information systems they’re worth checking out.

Do you know of other useful wildlife recording information systems in the UK?

Who to Work with in the Media

May 31, 2010

When Professor Brian Cox (of Wonders of the Solar System fame) decided to write for the Sun newspaper, there may have been a few raised eyebrows. But it made perfect sense to me!

Why? Because the Sun is read by more people than any other newspaper in the UK. So if you have a message to spread, that’s the way to reach most people.

Of course, it may not suit your charity to use the Sun. You may have a naturally limited target audience and would be better targetting specialised publications or local media. You may feel that the Daily Mail, with its specifically women and families focus, would suit your message better. Most importantly, you may feel that working with the Sun, would compromise your charity and your aims.

But, the chances are that you are aiming to reach as many people as possible. And to do that, you need to develop media contacts in a variety of publications. Many charities may find that a lot of their natural supporters read the Guardian and Independent and so would write for these publications or have them at the top of their media contacts list. It would be foolish not to! At the same time it would be foolish to ignore potential new supporters who may be reading other publications, even if you would never normally pick up that publication yourself. 

The point is, you need to reach not only your natural supporters, but also your future supporters. How else can you make sure your message reaches a wider audience? And do think about working with the tabloid media, because they may offer you the best way of reaching a lot of new supporters. And if you decide not to work with the tabloid media, do you have alternative ways to reach a mass audience?

What have your experiences been of working with the tabloid media? If this is something you would never do, let us know your thoughts! And also let us know if you’ve found alternative ways to reach a mass audience!

Twitter as a Marketing Tool for Charities

May 13, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, the Soil Association Scotland recently joined Twitter. Many charities are now on Twitter and it offers an excellent way of keeping up to date with your stakeholders and supporters.  This article is based on personal experience and does not represent anything like an official Soil Association approach to Twitter.

1. Think about it first. Browse Twitter and see how people use it, before setting up an account.

2. Once you start, tweet with confidence. You want to sound as though you have something to say that’s worth listening to.  

3. Be focussed. At the same time don’t just use Twitter purely to market, because that will bore people. Some people successfully use Twitter as a noticeboard where they only post occasional marketing notices, but by adding in other related items of interest, you make yourself more interesting and improve your Twitter experience. 

@SoilAssocScot tweet about our events and publications, other events we attend, news from the organic movement in Scotland and notes from our office allotment. 

If your charity is on both Facebook and Twitter, try not to say exactly the same on both, specially if your audience is the same in each case.

4. Follow people! They may follow you back (though following is not necessarily two way!). As a charity, most people who are seriously interested in your work will respect the fact that you don’t have time to follow them back. It’s better to have relatively few followers who are really interested and who will read and engage with you, rather than a thousand followers who never read you.

5. Make a ‘favourites list’ for the days when you’re too busy to read everyone’s tweets.

6. Retweet things! If a charity you follow has just posted some vital news you can share that with your followers by retweeting it. This shows you’re interested in engaging with the medium. It can also help to build your Twitter persona.

6. Use hash tags. Hash tags are a way that Twitter uses to group tweets on the same topic. @SoilAssocScot’s favourite hash tags include: #food and #organics. If you add a hash tag to your tweet then other people interested in that topic will pick up your tweets and may start following you or re-tweeting you as a result.

7. Talk to other people on Twitter by including their names in Tweets. This makes you seem more approachable and can win you followers and make you more influential. Twitter also offers a private message service for when you want an ongoing conversation with someone.

Follow Soil Association Scotland on Twitter:

What is your advice about how to use Twitter to market your charity?

Can Social Media Work for Your Charity?

May 4, 2010

I’ve just started working for the Soil Association in Scotland. One of the things I noticed when researching the charity was that the Headquarters office are very active on Facebook and Twitter. These are very useful places for a charity to be if you are public facing and Twitter can also be very useful if you work with other non-profits or with corporate partners as everyone seems to be on Twitter these days!

But will it work for your organisation? You need to have something to say on a regular basis without resorting to repeating yourself endlessly. You need also to have the staff resources to keep your accounts up to date and the management support to let staff do the updating, to publicise your account and to interact with supporters and others who follow you. You can set up separate Twitter accounts or Facebook pages for different projects or for different local offices, but only if there is good reason for doing so.

We’ve set up a separate Twitter account for Soil Association in Scotland. This will offer updates on events in Scotland, publications and reports available to Scottish supporters and notes about the progress of our organic office allotment. It will also mean that we can follow some of the many organic retailers and farmers and other useful food and environment related people on Twitter. We won’t be setting up a separate Facebook page, we’ll feed our news into the main Soil Association Facebook page.

This is still in the very early days, but you can follow us at:  I’ll update here on our progress as we go along, and my next post will be some advice on using Twitter that I’ve developed from my own personal Tweeting!